Griner’s double-double helps Mercury advance in WNBA playoffs

Bruce Yeung/Yeung Photohgaphy

TEMPE, Ariz. — Brittney Griner had 23 points and 11 rebounds to help the Phoenix Mercury advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 79-69 victory over the Seattle Storm on Wednesday night.

Phoenix will play at No. 4 Connecticut on Sunday.

Late in the fourth quarter, Diana Taurasi dribbled down the clock and found Leilani Mitchell for a corner 3-pointer on a cross-court pass for a 73-65 lead. Seattle’s Sue Bird answered with a long 3-pointer but Phoenix closed the game by making six straight free throws.

Taurasi only played seven minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls, but she finished with 14 points for Phoenix.

“I think that’s just the nature of the game sometimes, obviously you want to be on the court, but you know it happens,” Taurasi said. “I think that’s something we’ve had to face the whole year really with different people being injured and different lineups, and I think we’ve adjusted really well to that. And I think today was a moment where we had other people step up, and that takes a long time to get there.

“I think when we can hold down the fort and we can play that way when it doesn’t matter who’s on the court, I think that says a lot about the work Sandy’s put in, the coaching staff, the players on our team and what kind of character they have, they have the confidence in each other is going to get the job done, and I think that was the mindset in the first half.”

In the second half, she became the second WNBA player to reach 1,000 career playoff points, joining Tamika Catchings.

Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 23 points and eight rebounds. Jewell Loyd was 0 for 7 from the field in the first half and finished with 17 points.

Loyd made her first field goal of the game with 42 seconds left in the third quarter and hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to pull the Storm to 53-46. But Mitchell beat the third-quarter buzzer to extend Phoenix’s lead to 10 points. She had 17 points in the game.

Arizona Cardinal stars Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and David Johnson were in attendance at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena. The Mercury’s regular home court at the Talking Stick Resort Arena was not available due to a scheduling conflict.